Fatima Tofighi

Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

A Cultural History of the Body in the Work of Modern Iranian Religious Intellectuals 1960-1980

Fatima Tofighi
(University of Religions Qom / EUME Fellow 2017/18)

Chair: Katrin Bromber
(Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient) 

A recent turn to the body in both anthropology and philosophy has both questioned the pervasive mind-body dichotomy and sought to look at human phenomena through a corporeal lens. No less than other accounts, the narratives of modernity can be read in light of the discourses of the body — the ways the body is understood, experienced, made, categorized, pathologized, medicalized, improved, or suppressed, but also actively experiencing, influencing, and changing. These disciplinary, regulatory, and no less than that experiential discourses draw on different cultural, political, scientific, and religious resources.

Tofighi tries to offer an embodied narrative of Iranian modernity, by teasing out the contribution of the Reform Muslim intellectuals of 1960-1980. In this presentation, she will focus on the way these thinkers reinterpreted, prescribed, and even sometimes refuted Islamic bodily rituals: they sometimes provided scientific support for these rituals; they backed up rituals by showing what they considered similar practices in secular law; they introduced the shortcomings of a life without these laws; they offered first person existential accounts of doing the rituals; they classified the rituals based on what they deemed to be the rituals’ bases and the effects. In their particular context, such interpretations helped present Islamic rituals as nothing short of a modern lifestyle; but more than that, they contributed to a life of political hope and action where even individual solitary practices could have ramifications for the present and future well-being of the society. In other words, Islamists won the game in a battle over lifestyles, where their version of bodily practice (while including different interconnected aspects of life) both provided a plan of action against dictatorship and promised a future that avoided the ills of current political systems.

Fatima Tofighi
is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Religions (Qom, Iran), where she teaches a variety of topics on theories and methods in religious studies, feminist approaches to religion, biblical interpretation, and hermeneutics, among other things. She holds a PhD in Literature and Theology from the University of Glasgow (UK). Before that, she studied English Literature, as well as Islamic Theology and Law in Qom seminaries. She published the first Farsi translation of the Book of Mormon, among other translations. In her monograph Paul’s Letters and the Construction of the European Self (Bloomsbury, 2016), Tofighi arguments that Paul transgresses the limits of Europe. She deals with the ways that European biblical interpretation was based on certain theological and political categorizations rather than others that contributed to the construction of certain boundaries and particular kinds of subjects that shaped the particular kinds of religious interpretation on which European intellectual thought is based. At the moment, she is directing her research on philosophical explorations of the body, especially in modernity. In the academic year 2017/18, she is a EUME Fellow.

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